With minor league baseball shuttered for all of 2020, many of the game’s emerging stars had no platform to display their talents.
That will change in 2021, as work done in the anonymity of alternate training sites and instructional leagues will result in an influx of new talent across Major League Baseball.
And once again, USA TODAY Sports’ 100 Names You Need To Know aims to capture the new talent that will most impact 2021.
This list does not rank the top prospects in the game, but rather those whose pedigree and range of opportunity give them the greatest chance to factor into the upcoming season. A top prospect buried deep in this list may be heading it up in 2022.
With the pandemic-driven season affecting player usage at all levels, we adjusted our eligibility accordingly: Any player with less than 100 plate appearances or 40 innings pitched at the big-league level was eligible, so long as they had less than a year of service time.
Players are ranked in order of their anticipated impact this season.
Player capsules written by Scott Boeck, Stephen Borelli, Chris Bumbaca, Steve Gardner, Gabe Lacques and Jesse Yomtov.
1. OF Randy Arozarena, Rays: The breakout star of last year’s postseason, he will enter the 2021 season smack dab in the middle of the spotlight. Such is life when you set the all-time playoff home run record (10) while batting .377 and leading your team to a pennant. In fact, Arozarena nearly had more plate appearances during last season’s playoffs (86) than regular-season plate appearances in 2019-20 combined (99). He will be 26 when the season starts and should see more of an everyday role in his first full MLB campaign.
2. RHP Ian Anderson, Braves: The No. 3 pick in the 2016 draft not only made his MLB debut in 2020, he was one of baseball’s top pitchers in September and October. He started six regular-season games and went 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA over 32 ⅓ innings. In four postseason starts, he went 2-0 and only allowed two earned runs over 18 ⅔ innings. Entering 2021, the 22-year-old is projected to be the No. 3 starter and possibly the future ace.
3. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes, Pirates: Hayes’ stellar reputation on defense preceded him to the major leagues, but his bat really turned heads during his 24-game debut with the Pirates. The son of former MLB third baseman Charlie Hayes homered in his first game and posted a fantastic .376/.442/.682 slash line in 95 plate appearances. A .450 batting average on balls in play won’t last over a full season, but Hayes, 24, has all the tools to hold down an everyday job.
4. RHP Sixto Sanchez, Marlins: The 22-year-old made a splashy debut for the Marlins last season, going 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA over seven starts. He also struck out 39 over 33 regular-season innings and made two starts in the Marlins’ first trip to the playoffs since 2003. He throws in the high- to mid-90s with a terrific change-up and should begin the season in the middle or back of the rotation.
5. OF Cristian Pache, Braves: Pache, 22, is expected to be one the most exciting defensive players in the league with a plus arm. In the postseason, he offered a glimpse of what to expect. He became the seventh major league player to hit his first home run in the playoffs and showcased his defensive skills in center field. Look for Pache to break camp with the club and be the opening-day center fielder.
6. OF Alex Kirilloff, Twins: After Kirilloff spent the season at Minnesota’s alternate site, the Twins tossed him into the playoff fire, making his major league debut in Game 2 of the wild-card series. Now, at 23, he will likely be the Twins’ full-time left fielder and bring immediate 25-homer potential, culminating a steady rise through the minors since he was picked 15th overall in 2016.
7. RHP Triston McKenzie, Cleveland: The latest in a never-ending string of pitching success stories in Cleveland, the rail-thin McKenzie, 23, made his debut in August and posted a 3.68 ERA in six starts. He should be firmly ensconced in the rotation and carries considerable upside, having punched out a batter per inning at almost every stop, including 42 in 33 ⅓ innings in 2020.
8. LHP Kwang Hyun Kim, Cardinals: Arriving as one of Korea’s top starting pitchers, Kim was thrust into the unfamiliar role of closer to start the season. However, he joined the rotation after the COVID-19 hiatus and was extremely effective, finishing with a 3-0 record and 1.62 ERA in 39 innings. Kim, 32, doesn’t get many strikeouts (5.5 K/9), but he figures to be the Cards’ No. 2 starter entering spring training.
9. 1B Bobby Dalbec, Red Sox: As a minor leaguer, Dalbec demonstrated his prolific power, slugging 59 home runs between 2018-19 while striking out nearly 30% of the time. Both of those trends converted to his major league debut in 2020, when he homered eight times in 92 plate appearances and whiffed 39 times with 10 walks. The 25-year-old can play first and third base, affording the Red Sox some positional flexibility when it comes to placing his bat in the lineup.
10. RHP Nate Pearson, Blue Jays: Easily one of the game’s most promising young arms, Pearson – 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds — needs to stay healthy to reach his maximum potential. He had bad luck in the minors and after debuting last season he missed five weeks with a flexor strain in his right elbow, which held him to five games and 18 innings. The Blue Jays having the hard-throwing 24-year-old blossom in 2021 would do wonders for their postseason prospects.
11. RHP Spencer Howard, Phillies: The Phillies’ top pitching prospect, 24, has showcased a fastball and slider and reached the major leagues for six starts last season. He has dealt with shoulder injuries, however, the last two seasons and was shut down after a Sept. 12 start with stiffness. He has a chance to be an impact pitcher in the rotation this season but the team will monitor his health first and could put an innings limit on him.
12. IF Ha-seong Kim, Padres: Kim, 25, was one of the more desirable international free agents this offseason. The versatile infielder from the Korea Baseball Organization will likely play second base or as an often-used super-utility player. Since 2019, he slashed .307/.393/.500 with 49 home runs and 56 stolen bases. He also won two KBO Gold Glove Awards at shortstop in 2018 and 2019.
13. RHP Kyle Wright, Braves: Wright, 25, started eight games last season and posted a 5.21 ERA. While he has struggled through growing pains, the Braves still believe he will have a good season.
14. OF Jarred Kelenic, Mariners: Kelenic, 21, is one of the top prospects in baseball. An open stance and easy movements to the hitting positions enable him to quickly barrel baseballs with a short upper-cut stroke. Plus power plays in-game and should be a weapon early on. He hasn’t played above Class AA but has an invitation to spring training and, with continued improvement, has a chance to reach the majors by the summer.
15. LHP Keegan Akin, Orioles: He won’t break the radar gun but Akin showed in six major league starts that his ability to change speeds and locate can keep him in Baltimore. Akin, 25, struck out 35 in 25 ⅔ innings with the Orioles. And while he’s not the most vaunted of their many pitching prospects, his “pitchability” might keep him in the back of their rotation awhile.
16. C Ryan Jeffers, Twins: As Mitch Garver regressed from 34 home runs to a .167/.247/.264 slash line, Jeffers capitalized, debuting on Aug. 20 and posting a .355 OBP in 26 games and getting two playoff starts. At worst, Jeffers, 23, will share time with Garver.
17. RHP Dane Dunning, Rangers: Acquired in the Lance Lynn deal with the White Sox in December, Dunning, 26, is likely to earn a rotation spot in Texas. He showed excellent command in the minors, as well as an ability to keep the ball on the ground. In seven starts with the White Sox last year, he had a 3.97 ERA, struck out 35 and walked 13 in 34 innings and got a taste of the postseason.
18. RHP Deivi Garcia, Yankees: The Yankees added Corey Kluber and JamesonTaillon this offseason but otherwise didn’t do much to address the starting rotation. Could it be due to New York’s confidence in this slight (5-foot-9) yet promising 21-year-old? He started the 2019 MLB Futures Game and went 3-2 with 33 strikeouts over 34 ⅓ innings as a starter in 2020. He relies on a fastball that averages 92 mph, with a change-up, curveball and slider mix.
19. RHP Michael Kopech, White Sox: Kopech, 24, debuted in 2018 but has weathered Tommy John surgery and opting out of the 2020 season since. With Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon at the back of the rotation, the White Sox could conceivably look to Kopech soon provided he’s healthy and approaching the form that saw him punch out nearly 12 batters per nine innings in his minor league career.
20. C Alejandro Kirk, Blue Jays: Before 2020, Kirk had never played above the Class A Advanced level, but the 5-foot-8, 265-pound backstop had a successful debut stint (25 plate appearances) last season. He hit a home run and went 9-for-24 with four runs scored. The Jays have a catcher in Danny Jansen, but Kirk provides another depth option with the chance for more playing time.
21. LHP Garrett Crochet, White Sox: Crochet, 21, zoomed from 11th overall pick last June to the White Sox bullpen come September, punching out eight batters in six innings but leaving a playoff appearance with forearm tightness. Though starting could be in his future, he should be an immediate staple in the White Sox bullpen, where his 100-mph fastball and effective slider could position him in a Josh Hader-type role.
22. LHP Trevor Rogers, Marlins: He zoomed from high school to a major league debut in three years and now Rogers, 23, may break camp with a permanent spot in the Marlins rotation. While he was hit hard in seven big-league starts, his superior control – a minor league strikeout-walk ratio of 3.92 – make him a less buzzy but potentially steady back-end rotation option.
23. RHP Kohei Arihara, Rangers: Opportunity and durability put the 28-year-old squarely on the list. Texas expects him to fall into the middle of a young rotation that will lean on his ability to pitch a lot of innings. He threw 132 ⅔ last season (nearly 50 more than any major leaguer threw) for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He has a 3.65 career ERA with 6.8 strikeouts/nine innings in six seasons but over the last three his numbers are 3.32 and 7.9.
24. LHP Shane McClanahan, Rays: The Mets drafted him out of high school but he attended the University of South Florida. The Rays kept him close by making him a 2018 first-rounder, and he rose to Class AA in 2019. The southpaw had the distinction of debuting during the 2020 playoffs and topped out at 101.2 mph during his four relief appearances. McClanahan, 23, lost his freshman year of college to Tommy John surgery.
25. RHP Wil Crowe, Pirates: Acquired from Washington in the trade for veteran first baseman Josh Bell, Crowe was a second-round pick by the Nationals in the 2017 draft. At 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds, he has the build of a workhorse starter, which he appeared to be in making 27 minor league starts in 2019. However, he wasn’t quite ready for the majors last season, allowing eight earned runs and 14 hits in 11 ⅓ innings. In Pittsburgh, the 26-year-old will have a chance to earn a spot in the starting rotation this spring.
26. RHP Tejay Antone, Reds: Antone pitched well as both a starter and reliever in 2020, validating his eye-opening performance in spring training. Armed with a mid-90s fastball, Antone, 27, struck out 45 batters in 35 ⅓ innings (11.5 K/9) but never going more than five innings at a time. He could fill a spot in the Reds’ Trevor Bauer-less rotation or pitch multiple innings at a time out of the bullpen.
27. LHP Tarik Skubal, Tigers: Skubal emerged at the front of a deep class of starting pitchers and debuted last August but was hit hard (nine home runs in 32 innings) in a seven-start cameo. Still, the 24-year-old missed plenty of bats (37 strikeouts) and perhaps more important found plenty to work on among his secondary pitches, which should bode well for a full-season 2021 campaign.
28. LHP Adrian Morejon, Padres: Morejon, 21 on Feb. 27, has gotten a taste of the big leagues in each of the last two seasons, but to little fanfare. But in two appearances in the 2020 NL wild-card series, he showed signs of why he is so highly coveted. Morejon defected from Cuba in 2015 and signed with the Padres for $11 million in July 2016. He brings a track record of success as an amateur in Cuba to the stateside.
29. RHP Luis Patiño, Rays: Patiño had distinguished himself in a talented and deep Padres system before 2020 and made 11 appearances. Noting the small sample size (17 ⅓ innings) should accompany any mention of the stats (5.19 ERA, 7.3 BB/9) he posted, in addition to the fact he was 20. He’s consistently been the youngest player at each stop during his rise to the majors. Plus, he showed enough potential to be the main piece of the return the Rays received in the Blake Snell trade, although some are concerned he may be a bullpen arm long term.
30. SS Jazz Chisholm, Marlins: Chisholm debuted last September and, while franchise linchpin Miguel Rojas still holds down the shortstop job in Miami, the club could soon summon Chisholm to add louder tools to its middle-infield mix. Those tools inspired the club to trade steady starter Zac Gallen to Arizona for Chisholm, 23, whose Achilles’ heel remains strikeouts (149 and 147 in 2018 and ’19, respectively).
31. RHP Clarke Schmidt, Yankees: A 2017 first-round pick the Yankees selected after he had Tommy John surgery, Schmidt didn’t really get going in the minors until 2019. He needed 114 innings in the minors to reach the majors, which he did in 2020. Schmidt features both a power curve and two types of fastballs, in addition to a change-up. Could he take advantage of the Yankees’ uncertain pitching situation?
32. RHP Casey Mize, Tigers: Mize’s much-anticipated major league debut came just two years and two months after he was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft. His 6.99 ERA in a seven-start cameo showed there’s still a little way to go. Mize, 23, should return to Detroit this summer, provided the command issues that dogged him last year clear up.
33. INF Nick Allen, Athletics: Oakland’s trade for Elvis Andrus filled the Marcus Semien-sized hole at shortstop for the next two years but Allen could get a chance at second base sometime this season. The 22-year-old is a gifted defender but the organization will want to see his bat catch up this year.
34. 3B Wyatt Mathisen, Diamondbacks: Mathisen, a second-round pick of the Pirates in 2012, logged 649 minor league games before he made his big-league debut last season. He set career highs in home runs (23) and RBI (61) in just 87 games in the Pacific Coast League in 2019. He’ll need to prove himself away from the hitter-friendly league, though, and his key to finding playing time in Arizona might be his versatility. Mathisen, 27, can play first, second and third base.
35. INF/OF Zach McKinstry, Dodgers: The 25-year-old reached the majors in 2020 and could compete for a bench spot in 2021. Most of his experience is at second, third and shortstop but McKinstry has gotten reps in the outfield. With Corey Seager a free agent after this season, the Dodgers would like to see what they have in McKinstry, a 2016 33rd-round pick.
36. RHP Adbert Alzolay, Cubs: At one point, Alzolay was the Cubs’ top pitching prospect, but he hasn’t been able to stick in the majors despite cups of coffee in 2019 and 2020. He showed signs of improvement last season, striking out 29 batters in 21 ⅓ innings and pitching to a 2.95 ERA. With just a slight improvement in his control (5.5 BB/9), this could be the year Alzolay, 25, earns a spot in the rotation.
37. C Tyler Stephenson, Reds: Stephenson has battled injuries ever since being selected 11th overall in the 2015 draft, but he has above-average skills, both offensively and defensively. He homered in his first major league at-bat but spent most of the 2020 season at the Reds’ alternate training site. Returning in September, the 24-year-old displayed good plate discipline in limited action. He could overtake Tucker Barnhart at some point this season as the Reds’ No. 1 catcher.
38. RHP Logan Gilbert, Mariners: Drafted 14th overall in 2018 out of Stetson University, Gilbert, 23, has dominated the minors, going 10-5 with a 2.13 ERA in 26 starts, including an impressive run in Class AA in 2019. Gilbert, who is 6-foot-6, has showcased four pitches in the minor leagues. He is invited to spring training and could be part of Seattle’s rotation soon if he cruises through Class AAA.
39. RHP Jonathan Stiever, White Sox: He rocketed from fifth-round pick in 2018 to a major league debut in 2020 and now Stiever, 23, has a chance to figure in the White Sox’s 2021 rotation plans. While he lacks the electric fastball of Michael Kopech, Stiever could become a middle-rotation staple soon.
40. LHP Brailyn Marquez, Cubs: Marquez would likely have benefited tremendously had the minor leagues played last season. After finishing 2019 at high-Class A, he got the call to the majors on the final day of the 2020 regular season and it did not go well. Nevertheless, the lanky left-hander gets plenty of swings and misses on his upper-90s fastball. Marquez, 22, will most likely start 2021 in the minors but could make an impact with Chicago in the second half if his secondary pitches continue to improve.
41. C Andrew Knizner, Cardinals: Knizner, 26, would have been much higher on this list had the Cardinals not re-signed Yadier Molina this winter. He has shown solid plate discipline and decent power in the minors (.303/.369/.461 over four seasons). With no real competition looming, the No. 2 catcher’s role appears to be his.
42. RHP Daulton Jefferies, Athletics: The 25-year-old reached the majors (for one start) in 2020 but will most likely start the season in Class AAA. A first-round pick in 2017, Jefferies struck out 121 with just 12 walks in 99 ⅓ innings in the minors and will be back in the bigs sooner rather than later with a chance to make a case for a spot in the rotation.
43. RHP Josiah Gray, Dodgers: Acquired in a 2018 trade with the Reds, Gray dazzled at three levels in 2019, posting a 2.28 ERA with 147 strikeouts in 130 innings. The Dodgers have a ton of depth in the rotation, so there’s no need to rush the 22-year-old who has never pitched above Class AA. But given the Dodgers’ recent history, don’t be surprised if Gray gets a chance in the majors later in the season.
44. OF Daniel Johnson, Cleveland: Opportunity abounds these days in Cleveland, where Johnson, 25, should get a decent runway to hold down the right field job. Acquired from Washington in a deal for Yan Gomes, Johnson has flashed intriguing bursts of speed (two 22-steal seasons in the minors) and power (19 homers in 123 games in 2019), culminating in a 12-at-bat major league debut last year.
45. RHP Corbin Martin, Diamondbacks: Martin, a second-round draft pick in 2017, has only five big-league starts, going 1-1 with a 5.59 ERA. However, there could be more opportunities if those projected to be at the back end of the rotation – such as righty Luke Weaver (1-9, 6.58 ERA in 12 games) – struggle. Martin is 11-4 with a 2.58 ERA in 44 minor league games (33 starts). The 6-foot-2, 228-pounder is likely the first call-up for rotation needs.
46. RHP Michael King, Yankees: He quietly rose through the system as a 12th-round pick out of Boston College and made his debut (one outing, two innings) in 2019 before the Yankees used him in nine games (four starts) in 2020. He did not fare well (7.76 ERA in 26 ⅔ innings) but struck out 26 batters. King has an impressive minor league résumé, and he has an outside chance of cracking a Yankees rotation that will enter spring training with several question marks.
47. SS Jose Garcia, Reds: Garcia, 22, looks very much like the Reds’ shortstop of the future. The problem is, they don’t seem to have their shortstop of the present. Judging from his .194 average with no extra-base hits in 68 plate appearances with Cincinnati last season, Garcia isn’t quite ready to make the jump from high A, where he last played in 2019. However, he could be back in the majors sooner rather than later if other options don’t materialize.
48. LHP Matthew Liberatore, Cardinals: It’s way too soon to say the Cardinals got the short end of the trade that sent Arozarena to Tampa Bay, but it will appear that way at least until Liberatore, 21, makes his MLB debut. The 2018 first-round pick might not be too far off after an impressive showing last year at the team’s alternate camp. A potential No. 2 starter, he’ll likely begin the season in the minors.
49. RHP Dean Kremer, Orioles: Kremer, 25, has found velocity, turning the once jack-of-many-trades type projection into a solid mid-rotation projection. Kremer’s best pitch is a late-riding, 93-96 mph four-seam fastball that stays above a hitter’s swing plane. He made four starts for the Orioles in 2020, going 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA and striking out 22 in 18 ⅔ innings. He also walked 12 but averaged 3.1 walks per nine innings in the minors.
50. 3B Nolan Jones, Cleveland: The club’s top position-player prospect, Jones, 22, can afford to smooth out his offensive edges while Jose Ramirez holds down third base. Ultimately, Jones’ position will be “hitter” – and he should force his way to Cleveland this year, regardless of positional need.
51. RHP Bryan Abreu, Astros: One of the team’s top prospects finds himself among of mix of pitchers who could claim a rotation spot or at least be a factor in the rotation at some point this season. Abreu, 23, has struck out 15 (but walked 10) over 12 big-league innings. He has struck out 11.5 hitters/nine innings over six minor league seasons but walked 5.5. He’ll need to command his electric stuff in the big leagues.
52. RHP Matt Manning, Tigers: The 6-foot-6 former hoops star posted a 0.98 WHIP over 24 Class AA starts in 2019. Now 23, Manning is still a little raw but far enough along that a 2021 debut is certainly within reach.
53. OF Jared Oliva, Pirates: The speedy center fielder, 25, already has a pair of 30-steal seasons in the minors. He swiped his first base in the majors during a six-game cameo last September, during which he went 3-for-16 (.188). With the Pirates fully rebuilding, there could be a place for Oliva to begin the season in Pittsburgh.
54. 3B Colton Welker, Rockies: The Nolan Arenado trade to the Cardinals expedites Welker’s ascension to third base in Colorado. There aren’t any candidates on the 40-man roster who look as if they will take the big-league job and run with it, meaning Welker, who didn’t play any professional innings last season, is likely a strong start in Class AAA away from a promotion. He has an .833 OPS over 330 minor league games but hasn’t reached AAA yet.
55. LHP MacKenzie Gore, Padres: While former Cy Young Award winners Yu Darvish and Blake Snell have garnered all the attention this winter, the Padres are still banking on Gore to be a front-line starter. Gore, who will be 22 by opening day, is considered one of the top left-handed prospects in the game and has drawn comparisons to Clayton Kershaw due to his delivery. The Padres have the luxury not to rush him to the big leagues.
56. 3B Nolan Gorman, Cardinals: Gorman, 20, is one of the Cardinals’ top prospects but he suddenly finds himself blocked at the hot corner following the blockbuster acquisition of Nolan Arenado. The 19th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Gorman has serious raw power and will likely force himself onto the big-league roster at some point in the next year or two. He’ll get reps at second base and the outfield this spring to increase his versatility.
57. OF Monte Harrison, Marlins: Speed and an ability to play all three outfield positions put Harrison, 25, in the mix for big-league playing time at some point this season. Harrison played in 32 games last season in a part-time role for Miami, stealing six bases in six chances. He also pinch-ran twice and stole a base in the playoffs. He has stolen 138 bases in 520 minor league games.
58. RHP Bryse Wilson, Braves: Wilson, 23, has dabbled in the big leagues in each of the last three seasons, pitching in no more than 20 innings in any year, and has collected 42 ⅔ innings for a 5.91 ERA. In Game 4 of the NLCS, he went toe-to-toe against Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and outpitched the future Hall of Famer over six innings, allowing only one run and one hit.
59. C Sam Huff, Rangers: He’s one of the team’s top prospects who hasn’t played above high-A ball. Still, Huff had an explosive MLB debut in September, hitting .355 with three doubles and three home runs in 33 plate appearances. He’ll be competing with Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim, neither of whom has much more big-league experience than Huff. The 23-year-old hit 28 homers in the minors in 2019. He might be able to hit his way onto the big-league roster.
60. RHP Luis Garcia, Astros: Garcia, 24, reached the major leagues in 2020, making a start in the regular season and pitching in the ALCS. He will get a look for the rotation but could be used as a spot starter and long reliever. He is a high-velocity guy who started an ALCS game as an opener.
61. OF Trevor Larnach, Twins: There’s no immediate spot for Larnach in the Twins lineup, but the ever-creative club could find a way to work his diverse offensive skill set into their late-season alignment. If Larnach, 23, can cut down his strikeouts (124 in 127 minor league games in 2019), he could add another left-handed on-base machine to the mix.
62. INF Edmundo Sosa, Cardinals: Sosa had brief stints in the majors in 2018 and 2019 but didn’t see any game action last year as one of several Cardinals who spent time on the COVID-19 injured list. He can play second, third and short – and he has decent pop for a middle infielder. At age 24, Sosa could take over the Cards’ utility man role this season with Tommy Edman likely to be the everyday second baseman.
63. C Luis Campusano, Padres: Campusano, 22, is the No. 2-ranked catching prospect behind Orioles backstop Adley Rutschman, according to Baseball America. He made his MLB debut in September 2020 and homered in his only game before landing on the injured list. In the offseason, he ran into trouble and was arrested for felony marijuana possession.
64. LHP AJ Puk, Athletics: The 25-year-old missed the 2018 season after Tommy John elbow surgery but came back 15 months later to make his big-league debut in 2019 and get some hype going, only to miss the 2020 season due to shoulder soreness and eventually surgery. Expected to be ready for spring training, Puk could compete for a spot in the rotation, but there’s no reason for the club to rush him back into things. He could also be a versatile weapon out of the bullpen.
65. RHP Kyle Cody, Rangers: He is 6-foot-7 and, despite not pitching in a professional game following 2018 Tommy John surgery, reached the major leagues in 2020 and pitched in eight games (five starts). He struck out 18 and had a 1.59 ERA over 22 ⅔ innings. If he can clean up his 13 walks, Cody, 26, has the tools to become part of a young big-league rotation.
66. SS Oneil Cruz, Pirates: One of the tallest players ever to play shortstop, the 6-foot-7 Cruz reached Class AA in 2019, hitting .298/.356/.475 over three levels. However, his situation is clouded by his involvement in a fatal traffic accident in the Dominican Republic in September. The Pirates expect Cruz, 22, to be a full participant at spring training.
67. LHP Daniel Lynch, Royals: The Royals’ top pitching prospect, Lynch, 24, stands ready to make it to Kauffman Stadium should any of the club’s more established younger arms falter. Lynch was the 34th overall pick in the 2018 draft out of Virginia and benefited from a stint among more advanced players at the club’s alternate site last summer.
68. RHP Tyler Ivey, Astros: Ivey, 24, is among a scrum of mid-20s looking to reach the major leagues in 2021. He can throw in the mid-90s but the pitch that might help him stick in the majors is his big curve. He still needs to prove himself in Class AAA.
69. OF Brandon Marsh, Angels: The team’s outfield is full and Marsh is behind Jo Adell (expected to start in Class AAA) in the pecking order, so there’s no clear path to big-league at-bats right now for the 23-year-old. Marsh has never played above Class AA so the Angels will want to give him more time to grow – but a late-season call-up isn’t out of the question.
70. INF Jeter Downs, Red Sox: Once a Reds and Dodgers prospect who was dealt to Boston in the Mookie Betts trade, Downs reached Class AA in 2019 while still in L.A.’s system. He hit 37 home runs between his first two full seasons in the minors (2018-19) and was a non-roster camp invitee before the shutdown in 2020.
71. OF Taylor Trammell, Mariners: A first-round pick by the Reds in 2016, Trammell, 23, has remained a prospect as he has been dealt to the Padres and Mariners. He has power and speed and has played all three outfield positions. He was last seen playing professionally in Class AA in 2019, so he’ll likely start in Class AAA but could be in Seattle quickly if he continues to produce.
72. RHP Edward Cabrera, Marlins: Cabrera struck out nearly 11 batters per nine innings in two 2019 minor league starts and eventually could join Sixto Sanchez atop Miami’s rotation. Given the need for more help in big-league rotations this year, Cabrera, 22, should kick down the door to the majors quickly in 2021.
73. OF Yusniel Diaz, Orioles: It was a mild surprise Diaz was not summoned to the majors last season, but his 2021 debut should come sometime in the first half. Diaz, 25, was the centerpiece of the 2018 Manny Machado trade with the Dodgers and has 20-plus homer potential at Camden Yards. For now, he’s behind Ryan Mountcastle and others, but the club will certainly want to give him a long look this year.
74. 2B/OF Jahmai Jones, Orioles: Acquired from the Angels in February, Jones instantly became one of Baltimore’s top prospects. The 23-year-old reached the majors in 2020 and could be back in early in 2021 with a strong showing in Class AAA. Yolmer Sanchez is the Orioles’ presumed second baseman heading into spring training.
75. SS Wander Franco, Rays: Franco, who turns 20 on March 1, is widely considered the top prospect in baseball. He is expected to make his major league debut this season, but the timing remains uncertain. The switch-hitting shortstop has raked at every level. Can that track record translate in the bigs? More important: How early in the year will the Rays let him try?
76. RHP Forrest Whitley, Astros: Whitley, 23, was expected to make his MLB debut as a reliever last season, but a forearm injury caused him to miss the season. Stuff has never been an issue with Whitley. The first-rounder in 2016 features a double-plus fastball and change-up. His curveball and slider both flash plus potential. Unfortunately, struggles with consistency and health problems have caused his upside to be doubted. He’ll need to prove himself in the minors first.
77. RHP Jhoan Duran, Twins: He could be Brusdar Graterol 2.0: A massive (6-foot-5, 230-pound) right-hander with rotation potential but could arrive sooner to augment the bullpen. Duran, 23, struck out nearly 11 batters per nine innings in the minors in 2019 for a better than a 3-1 strikeout/walk ratio. Figure to see him at Target Field sometime in 2021.
78. OF Jarren Duran, Red Sox: Over the first 50 games of 2019, Duran hit .387 in the Carolina League before advancing to Class AA, where his bat cooled off. What didn’t was his speed. He swiped 28 bags on 36 attempts. Additionally, he was a Caribbean Series All-Star for Team Puerto Rico this past offseason.
79. LHP Asa Lacy, Royals: Like Daniel Lynch, Lacy, 21, is a non-roster invitee to spring training whose solid chances at a 2021 debut would be even stronger had there been a minor league season in 2020. Lacy, drafted fourth overall in June, he has yet to pitch in a professional game but emerged from Texas A&M a largely finished product. Likely a bigger factor in 2022, but worth tracking this year.
80. OF Drew Waters, Braves: Waters, 22, has drawn comparisons to Braves icon and Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. While those are lofty projections, he does have above-average power from both sides of the plate, which Jones had. The Braves’ outfield could become crowded in the future if he makes the same strides as Cristian Pache to the majors.
81. RHP Adonis Medina, Phillies: After reaching the majors in 2020, the 24-year-old should be in the mix for the fifth starter job but will likely start the season in Class AAA. He will be back up at some point and could be in the rotation by the end of the season.
82. C Rafael Marchan, Phillies: Marchan made headlines last year when his first pro home run came in the majors – after 850 plate appearances without a homer in the minors. With J.T. Realmuto back, Marchan isn’t going to be a regular any time soon. But with a .285 career average in the minors, he could contribute off the bench.
83. RHP Johan Oviedo, Cardinals: Oveido, 22, made five starts for the Cardinals last year with a rather unimpressive 5.47 ERA. However, he did impress teammates with his four-pitch mix – featuring an upper 90s fastball – and his confidence on the mound. The 6-foot-5 righty earned a spot on the postseason roster and should have a spot in either the rotation or the bullpen in 2021.
84. OF Heliot Ramos, Giants: The 21-year-old’s power has developed nicely since he was drafted 19th overall in 2017. And while he’s mostly played center, he projects as more of a corner outfielder. Ramos will likely start the season in Class AAA and may not make his big-league debut until 2022. Still, he’s one of the Giants’ top prospects.
85. C Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers: One of the Dodgers’ top prospects for years now, the 22-year-old reached the majors in 2020 but will probably start the new season in the minors, behind Will Smith and Austin Barnes on the organization’s depth chart. A switch-hitter, Ruiz has more power from the left side and could find his way into matchup-based playing time in 2021.
86. LHP Anthony Kay, Blue Jays: The Mets included Kay in the package for Marcus Stroman in 2019, and he broke into the big leagues with the Blue Jays that September. Toronto used him as a reliever in 2020, and he posted a 5.14 ERA in 21 innings across 13 appearances with 14 walks and 22 strikeouts. There is a chance he can crack the starting rotation in 2021, but he’ll likely remain in the bullpen.
87. SS Royce Lewis, Twins: He’s still their shortstop of the future, but Lewis, 21 and the No. 1 overall pick in 2017, may get to Minneapolis this year purely on athleticism. His power-speed combo and ability to play anywhere in the middle of the field could prove an irresistible asset if the Twins make another expected run into the playoffs.
88. LHP Seth Romero, Nationals: A first-round pick in 2017, Romero missed all of 2019 following Tommy John surgery but impressed the club enough that he made his big-league debut late in 2020. He is behind a few others (like Erick Fedde) on the depth chart but should be back in the majors at some point this season and could make an impact as a starter or reliever.
89. 1B Andrew Vaughn, White Sox: Arguably baseball’s top first-base prospect, Vaughn has just 245 professional plate appearances but could figure in the White Sox’s 2021 plans nonetheless. The third overall pick in 2019, Vaughn, 22, is an advanced hitter who will eventually supplant Jose Abreu at first base but more immediately could provide pop if there’s any regression among the White Sox’s young hitters.
90. LHP Kyle Muller, Braves: Muller, 23, is listed at 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds. He spent last season at the Braves’ alternate training site, with his fastball ranging between 95-97 mph. He was drafted out of high school in Texas and was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year.
91. OF Jesus Sanchez, Marlins: Sanchez, 23, reached Miami last season and hit only .040 in 10 games. Patience at the plate has been an issue but Sanchez hit for power and average in the lower minors and plays good defense. Still a good prospect, he’ll have a chance to earn playing time for the Marlins at some point this season.
92. C Adley Rutschman, Orioles: The No. 1 overall pick in 2019, the 23-year-old has only played 37 professional games but he should be on the fast track to Baltimore. He’s known for his plate discipline and skills behind the plate, which could land him in the majors by the end of 2021.
93. INF Will Wilson, Giants: The 15th overall pick out of North Carolina State in 2019, Wilson was traded from the Angels to the Giants months later. He hit .275 in rookie league ball that season and scouts project him as a 20-homer middle infielder. Wilson should start the season in Class AA.
94. C/1B Miguel Amaya, Cubs: In an organization that lacks catching depth, Amaya, 21, could find himself in the majors sooner than expected. The native of Panama is a strong defensive presence behind the plate with intriguing offensive potential. He has yet to face competition above the high-A level, but the Cubs have already added him to their 40-man roster.
95. RHP J.B. Bukauskas, Diamondbacks: Bukauskas, 24, has shown power stuff in the minors, striking out 189 in 161 ⅔ innings. He hasn’t pitched above AA, where he has struggled, but has the potential to pitch in Arizona this season.
96. OF DJ Peters, Dodgers: The 6-foot-6 Peters has 92 home runs and a .363 OBP in 455 minor league games and could break camp as a powerful right-handed bat on the Dodgers bench. The 25-year-old has spent most of his pro career in center but projects as a right fielder.
97. RHP Franklyn Kilome, Mets: Kilome missed the entire 2019 season after having Tommy John surgery but recovered to make his debut last season, as the right-hander made four relief appearances. His first outing went well – two earned runs, five strikeouts, four innings – but he allowed 12 earned runs over his next three opportunities (nine walks, four homers in 7 ⅓ innings).
98. RHP Simeon Woods Richardson, Blue Jays: Woods Richardson went with Kay to Toronto from the Mets’ system as the other piece of the Stroman trade about a year after New York selected him in the second round of the draft. He made 26 starts as an 18-year-old in 2019 between Class A and high Class A, with 126 whiffs in 106 ⅔ innings. He will start the season in the minors, but if the Blue Jays are in need of an arm, they could turn to Woods Richardson – a top-five prospect in their system who won’t turn 21 until the final week of the regular season.
99. RHP Jackson Kowar, Royals: Chosen 33rd overall in 2018, 15 slots behind fellow Royal and Florida Gator Brady Singer and one ahead of Daniel Lynch, the 24-year-old Kowar has pitched just 74 innings above Class A but doesn’t need much more polish before heading to Kansas City. He can get outs with his change-up, but tightening up other secondary offerings will be paramount before joining all of those other young arms at Kauffman Stadium.
100. INF Mark Mathias, Brewers: After a steady climb through the minors as an infielder, Mathias, 26, made his MLB debut in August, hitting .278 with no homers in 36 at-bats for Milwaukee, playing almost exclusively in the outfield. His versatility could make him a valuable bench piece in 2021.